UK joins ban on South African flights over ‘most worrying’ Covid variant
By Hamed Chapman
London, (The Muslim News): The UK is joining other countries in banning flights from South Africa over new Covid-19 variant that has been described as the “most worrying” yet.
Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zimbabwe were being suspended from midday Friday following the new mutation first identified in Botswana back on November 11.
“UKHSA [UK Health Security Agency] is investigating a new variant. More data is needed but we’re taking precautions now,” Javid said in a tweet.
The six African countries are being added to the red list and UK travellers must quarantine for 10 days and pay for the stay.
“The early indication we have of this variant is it may be more transmissible than the Delta variant and the vaccines that we currently have may be less effective against it,” he was also quoted saying.
The action follows the failure by the UK Government to close its borders to flights from India in April from where the mutation of Delta variant was first found due to trade deal. This led to the spread of the variant around the UK with it being among the highest number of new cases and remains prevalent.
The Chief Medical Adviser to the UK Health and Security Agency has warned that the newly identified Covid-19 variant in southern Africa is the “most worrying we’ve seen” with transmission levels not recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.
“What we’re seeing in South Africa is that they were at a very, very low point, with a very low amount of cases being detected a day, and in a shorter period than two weeks they have more than doubled their epidemiology picture,” Susan Hopkins told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Speaking on Sky News, Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said the Government was taking a “safety-first approach” to the new variant but it did not necessitate reintroducing enforcement of the use of face masks in public transport and shops.
“We want the economy to be able to flourish, we want people to be able to go about their business, see their friends and family. So we’re trying to operate as permissive an atmosphere as possible but, of course, we’re keeping a very close eye on this all the time. So far, in all the numbers, we haven’t seen any reason to do anything else.”
World Health Organization officials were due to meet Friday with South African officials to assess the situation.
Additional report by Ahmed J Versi
[Photo: Health Secretary Sajid Javid. Photographer: Richard Townshend official portrait of Sajid Javid MP]
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